Village Voices: The Wickes family celebrates 40 years running Sundance Liquor and Gifts
This is Village Voices, the community page anchored on locals and their stories. The second week of every month, the Page 2 section will feature a local business owner for the revamp of the “Meet Your Merchant” series.
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The flower logo you see in print was designed by Los Angeles graphic artist Ken Parkhurst for Snowmass in the late 1960s, and a handful of his village designs will be featured as part of the community page.
There is really only one place in Snowmass you can go for a bottle of top-shelf whiskey, fine wine, unique state and village souvenirs, and pharmacy products: Sundance Liquor and Gifts.
For more than 40 years, the family-owned business has served as a liquor, drug and gift store combination, known for its wide selection of high-quality goods and spirits for every season.
But for 40 years, the store hasn’t just been a store; it’s been a place for growth and community for both the Wickes family and their longtime employees.
“My goal was to create a store where people feel comfortable and wanted,” said Barbara Bakios-Wickes, store owner and operator. “I’d like to think that we’ve hit that mark.”
When Barbara and her husband, Steve — the store’s behind-the-scenes owner, accounting and IT point person — were asked to open a pharmacy and liquor store in the Snowmass Center in 1979, she didn’t think they’d run the business for more than a decade.
The couple was working for the former longtime Aspen Drug Store on Hyman Avenue at the time, moved to the village to head the new Snowmass Center store, and have been there ever since.
“We were foolish and young and determined to do it together,” Barbara recalled of the transition, laughing. “The plan was to keep the store for 10 years, sell it and move on. But I fell in love with the employees, managing the business, the people. … It was the perfect fit for me.”
Four decades later, Barbara and Steve have experienced a lot of change through Sundance Liquor and Gifts, starting as a boyfriend-girlfriend duo and soon becoming a married couple raising two kids.
Andrew Wickes, Barbara and Steve’s son who has spent the past five years working for the store in a management capacity for the first time since his stocking days as a teen, said growing up around the small business helped him better understand what his parents did and what creative, hard work looked like.
“The store is older than I am, it’s all I know,” Andrew said of growing up as the son of small business owners. “It’s always been a lot of hands-on experience.”
When asked what they have learned over the years through running Sundance, the family talked about the importance of treating employees and customers well, and of adapting to the ebbs and flows of both the village tourism seasons and the marketplace.
Moving forward, the Wickes anticipate more change with the proposed redevelopment of the Snowmass Center, potentially causing them to move locations for the second time over the past decade, but are determined to maintain the store’s friendly, family-oriented atmosphere and quality service.
“We’re really proud of what the store has to offer and plan to continue to be known as a place with unique offerings,” Andrew said.
“It’s seems to be a happy place people like to hang around and pop in to chat,” Barbara added. “I think that’s probably the main reason we’ve been here for 40 years.”
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Spend enough time on the trails and slopes of Snowmass Village and you’ll probably see Brandon Hawksley at some point — or his handiwork, anyway.